Karin Brownlee was a Republican member of the Kansas Senate, representing the 23rd District since 1996. She was nominated by Governor Sam Brownback to serve as his Secretary of Labor. Her nomination was confirmed by the State Senate and she subsequently resigned her Senate seat, effective January 10, 2011, when Governor Brownback was sworn in. She was later by her own report fired by Governor Brownback. She was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1996 and was the vice-chair of the Johnson County Republican Party from 1994 to 1996. She was also involved in the Kansas Republican Party State Committee from 1993 to 1996 and was chair of the Olathe Republican Party from 1992 to 1994.
Brownlee served on these legislative committees:Commerce (Chair)
Financial Institutions and Insurance (vice-chair)
Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations
Assessment and Taxation
Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight
Some of the top contributors to Brownlee's 2008 campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics:
Kansas Republican Senatorial Committee, Kansas Bankers Association, Kansas Association of Realtors, Kansas Contractors Association, Koch Industries, Kansas Medical Society
Financial, insurance, and real estate companies were her largest donor group.
In early January 2011 Brownlee took office as Secretary in the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL). She claimed that the upgrading of the unemployment claims technology project commenced in 2005 was being mismanagement and brought in an outside technology company to review work to date.
In August 2011 Brownlee terminated the employment of asthma sufferer Kathleen Arbogast who filed suit against KDOL in January 2013 claiming discrimination and retaliation and seeking $100.000 in damages. Arbogast had complained about staff wearing perfume and other fragrances interfered with her ability to perform her duties. She was moved to the basement to remove her from such contact but claimed that the fragrances worn by other workers visiting her continued her asthma problems. KDOL sought to have the lawsuit dismissed but the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas denied the motion, KDOL then appealed to the 10th circuit court which affirmed the decision in the District Court. The case moved to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas which brought down its decision 9 September 2016. In the discussion it found that, " ... Plaintiff has pointed the Court to no statutory authority indicating that KDOL has the capacity to be sued. Accordingly, the Court grants Defendant’s motion to dismiss."
In September 2012 Brownlee was removed from KDOL by Gov. Sam Brownback without explanation.
In December 2013 Kansans for Wind Energy, announced that Brownlee had joined their organisation as a spokesperson to promote the use of wind energy in Kansas and the building of wind farms. In 2015 she was still affiliated with Kansans for Wind Energy and also a lobbyist for NextEra Energy arguing against cutting renewable energy incentives. She is a registered lobbyist with Capitol Advantage.
The Government Affairs Groups purpose is to meet with elected officials to promote their platform with Brownlee actively involved July 2015-June 2016. It is a part of the Chamber of Commerce.